When we seek medical
care, we want to be able to trust our providers and know they understand who we
are and our health care needs. When patients don’t see people like them, when
their providers have little understanding of the issues they face, they may
feel excluded or unable to get the care they seek.
Yet, despite efforts
like the Affordable Care Act, the health care disparities gap continues as does
the need for diversity in health care professions like dentistry. In 2013, only
13.4% of the applicants to dental school were from underrepresented minorities
(and 47.4% of those applicants were women).
What can make the
If you are someone who
is part of an underrepresented minority group and you have an interest in
dentistry, you can help contribute to a future where all patients receive the
same quality of care and understanding.
When dentists are men
and women from all types of backgrounds, when the profession includes a range
of ethnicities, it makes the care the profession provides better for everyone.
That’s why the need for underrepresented
minorities in dentistry matters.
Cultural Competency: A person’s ability to
understand and interact with people from cultures and backgrounds other than
Having a diverse
dental workforce does not mean that every patient needs to see a provider just
like him or her. It’s about cultural competence, the awareness and ability of
providers to respond to the sensibilities of patients whose cultures and values
may be very different from their own. The idea of cultural competency is
crucial when thinking about the makeup of a dental school class. It is
important to have a diverse group of students in each class to promote cultural
competency. When students work closely with their colleagues from different
backgrounds, they are more likely to understand them and therefore become
culturally competent practitioners.
If you are reading this and are from an
underrepresented minority group, we hope you will consider dentistry as a
career. In doing so, you may be able to bring smiles and good health to adults
and children in communities across the United States who currently face
disparities in health care.